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Riddell helmet maker headed for auction block : sources

U.S. President Barack Obama holds a football helmet with the Presidential seal given to him during his visit to Riddell manufacturing facili
U.S. President Barack Obama holds a football helmet with the Presidential seal given to him during his visit to Riddell manufacturing facili

By Olivia Oran and Soyoung Kim

(Reuters) - Easton-Bell Sports, which makes Riddell helmets for the National Football League and other equipment for the National Hockey League, is being prepared for a sale by its private equity owner, in a deal that could fetch as much as $900 million, three people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.

Easton-Bell's owner, New York-based buyout firm Fenway Partners, is finalizing advisers for the process, the people said, asking not to be named because the matter is not public.

Based in Van Nuys, California, the company sells its products under several brands, including Easton, Bell, Riddell, Giro, Blackburn and Easton Cycling. It generated net sales of $827.2 million in fiscal year 2012.

Easton-Bell may be a tough sale, two of the people said, as a Colorado judge ruled this week that its Riddell brand had not sufficiently warned players wearing their football helmets about the danger of potential concussions.

Riddell was ordered to pay several million dollars in damages to a man who may have suffered brain damage as the result of a concussion in 2008 during a high school football game.

The sale also comes as Fenway Partners, once considered a top middle-market buyout firm, has seen a stream of managing directors depart, Buyouts reported earlier this year. A spokesman for Fenway Partners declined to comment.

(Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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